Early March finds us driving here and there in the Midwest. We began our tour on March 2nd out in rural Wisconsin near Dodgeville at a beautiful old farm-gone folk school. Folklore Village, founded in the 1970’s, is a rural community center that promotes cultural folk tradtions. Many folks came out to see us, even though they had to brave a blizzard to do so. The howling winds couldn’t get through to us in that cozy hall. And afterwards the neighboring farmhouse sheltered us and tunes were played late into the night.
After a delicious feast of a breakfast thanks to our hosts Dan & Meghan, we drove to Chicago, arriving just in the nick of time… well, actually, just a little past the nick of time thanks to city traffic, to teach a string band workshop at the Old Town School. Our classes were small but good, and that place is an inspiring hub proving that folk traditions are alive and well. That evening we played a house concert at Danny and Annalee’s home in Chicago. We thought: how strange to play in the huge city of Chicago, in a small house in a small neighborhood to a small cross-section of the community. It’s a long way from home. Our warm audience made us feel so welcome and we all enjoyed the intimate setting a house concert provides. Thanks to our hosts and to Genevieve for bringing us all together.
It’s a bit of a drive from Chicago to St. Louis, but eventually we did see the Arch, and when we arrived in the warm afternoon, we had a warm welcome from our friends Andy & Hope Gribble. The Folk School of St. Louis was only a few blocks away and after a nice cold cider we wandered there for a pre-show potluck with the locals. Our concert that night was well received, and felt a bit like a house concert thanks to the intimate setting at the school. Folks ventured back to the house afterwards for tunes and visiting, and we all had a nice time. St Louis is home to some fine musicians!
After breakfast and a morning visit to the local chocolatier (whose dark chocolate covered salted caramels were divine!), we were headed for Urbana, Illinois. Also notable that morning was a visit to a local shop where you could buy aged scotches and whiskeys as well as all sorts of fancy liqueurs, infused vinegars and oils, and all from oak casks in whatever quantity you might desire. Can we get one of those back home? We arrived in Urbana in the afternoon and Caleb and Reeb taught a vocal workshop. That night we played at the Iron Post, and I have to say, the turnout for a Monday night was impressive. I think every table was filled, as well as the bar, and the room was warmed with the gentle hoots and hollers from our crowd. Not only that, but they danced! Thanks to Ed of the Folk and Roots Festival for helping with the show, to Julianne and Kate for setting up a workshop for us, and extra thanks to Julianne for hosting us that night.
A nice long morning walk was in order after those days in the car without any exercise. We drove to Iowa City and played that night at The Mill, a legendary bar and venue that has hosted the likes of Ola Belle Reed, Balfa Brothers, & Highwood Stringband over the years. The Iowa Friends of Old Time Music helped get the show together for us, and I felt like the room was two thirds full of fellow musicians, including our host Al Murphy, a notable local fiddler. We had a nice visit with him in his home later that night, looking over and listening to old records and talking about music.
After a great breakfast at the Bluebird Diner in Iowa City and 6 hours in the car, we pulled in Sioux Falls, SD, to be greeted by some fine tunes coming out of Tom’s garage. A nice walk through the golf course and a delicious stew, thanks to Kristi, then we were ready to go to Boonies Bar and BBQ. And what a crowd, possibly the most enthusiastic of the whole tour! Thanks to the Union Grove Pickers for kicking off the show and to the South Dakota Friends of Traditional Music for making this event happen!
Not every day we can say that we’ve played in many jazz clubs but that day, we played at the Dakota Club, Minneapolis’ fanciest jazz club. We shared the stage with our new favorite country band, the Cactus Blossoms. We had a great time, saw friends and family and got a kick out of seeing the banjo resting on the grand piano, probably a first in that establishment!
Maybe we had never been so excited by a 4.5 hour drive! We knew that a the end of the road, at the beautiful Maplelag, the Wild Goose Chase Cloggers had prepared the best weekend ever: Moosejaw, aka Dance Weekend aka ski-sauna-jacuzzi-cajun two-step-square dance-jumping in a freezing lake-singing-great food-picking-heaven! Thanks to everyone for organizing such a fine weekend! We drove back to Burnville, Sammy’s home town, and got in just in time for our final concert at the St. James Lutheran Church. Great to see familiar faces, lots of them being Sammy’s family. We finished up the concert by having Sammy’s dad and brother playing with us and his sister-in-law clogging. Back at Sammy’s parents, we had a feast, thanks Caleb for the perfectly grilled burgers and Reeb for a delicious salad!
Tour is over and we had a great time, superb weather, fine picking, wonderful visits and succulent meals. Thanks to everyone for making our Midwest Tour a success and keep in touch for next adventures, EUROPE in MAY!!!